Korean Skin Care: Get Your Glow On

Korean Skin Care: Get Your Glow On

Bored with traditional skin care? Tired of hearing the same catchwords and promises? Then all you need to do is take a closer look at the skin care that Korea has to offer, and you'll be surprised (and occasionally entertained) by the trends that are taking the beauty industry by storm. In fact, the breakneck speed of innovation is driving the growth of South Korea's buzzing beauty industry, estimated at $13 billion in just the past year. Whether it's about a new twist in a skin care routine, an innovative product, or an unusual ingredient, there's always something to learn from K-Beauty.



            K-Beauty blurs the lines in creating innovative experiences and surprises. Ten-step regimens that include double-cleansing are not the only path to achieving "glass skin," known for its clear, luminous, dewy, and seemingly poreless quality. With every new trend, it's almost as if skin care goes hybrid as textures combine and transform. Masks become foam, oil morphs into cream, exfoliants double as moisturizers. New skin care methods and interesting products are not only effective, but they are an experience in themselves.

—The Seven Skin Method

            Also known as the seven toner method, the "Seven Skin Method" is a regimen where seven layers of toner are layered on in succession. In this way, the skin is drenched with moisture, without the heaviness or greasiness that may come with layering traditional oils and creams. Providing the optimal balance of hydration and skin's natural oils, it's the fast track to the Korean ideal, "chok chok," referring to a plump, luminous, dewy glow to the complexion. With this method, however, it's important to avoid toners with alcohol, which will dry out the skin and potentially cause irritation if layered more than once.

—Bubble masks

            Due to this obsession with Korean beauty, masks come in an infinite variety of choices, ranging from splashed-on liquid to painted-on mud. One popular version is the bubble mask, with activated bubbles that introduce micronized ingredients into the skin. The sensation is unique—like tiny champagne bubbles tickling skin as they oxygenate skin cells. Bubble masks provide a sensorial quality that is exciting for clients, who rarely have experienced anything like it. It’s a great surprise during a facial: clients feel a playful tickling, an unusual effervescent "crackle, pop" sensation. Bubble masks are a fun and effective way to hydrate and oxygenate skin, and even provide a brightening effect.

—Sun sticks

            Sunscreen sticks are an increasingly popular form of sunscreen that provides a very convenient way to protect skin from damaging UV rays that cause premature wrinkles, dryness, dark spots, and other signs of skin stress and aging. Although they might initially seem like sticks of deodorant being rubbed across the face, these sun sticks can provide superior levels of protection, as with 50+ SPF (level of protection from UVB rays) and PA +++ (level of protection from UVA rays).

            Depending on ingredients, the sun sticks may also offer anti-aging and brightening benefits, are much easier to travel with, and are less messy than traditional sunscreens or BB creams. Some may be oily and leave a white cast that is difficult to blend into skin. However, other brands blend in clear and matte, and can actually provide a good primer for fixing makeup. This kind of innovation and convenience is a great way to encourage people to use sunscreen every day to protect against UV damage, whether it's a sunny day outside or not.

—Microneedle patches

            Before microneedle patches came along, microneedling treatments were provided by dermatologists for their twofold benefits: first, to stimulate collagen production for healing and rejuvenating skin, and second, to increase the absorption (and efficacy) of skincare products. However, to some individuals, a dermaroller or microneedler may look like a tiny torture device implanted with uniform rows of miniature needles. Fortunately, K-Beauty has a less daunting and much more convenient solution: transdermal microneedle patches. These patches function according to the same principle of micro-needling—without the scary needle roller.             Some microneedle patches are loaded with hyaluronic acid, retinol, vitamin C, or skin brightening ingredients. The tiny needles (or microscopic spears) implanted in the patch improve ingredient delivery to problem areas. If the patch doesn't contain infused ingredients, that's fine, because after patch removal, serums or creams can immediately be applied for better absorption into the skin. Clinical studies with microneedle patches have shown success in improving skin brightening, increasing elasticity, and reducing facial wrinkles, including crow's feet and nasolabial folds. According to skin sensitivity, whether it's a microneedle roller or microneedle patch—when there's no pain, there's no gain in the war against aging.

—Fascia-firming massage

            For those who prefer more of a hands-on approach to skin rejuvenation before anti-aging products are applied, Meridian facial resculpting zeros in on the superficial fascia, which is the connective tissue lying underneath the skin. During massage along Meridian lines, wrinkles and creases in the fascia are smoothed out by rolling and pressing along the jawline and neck. The look of drooping eyelids, dull skin, and puffiness can be minimized by using the forefinger and thumb to gently pinch and roll along the eyebrows and eye sockets. As an added bonus, the experience of being touched releases oxytocin to improve a sense of overall well-being.



            No one would blame you if you thought that ginseng, jellyfish, bamboo, bird nests, and pig collagen were the ingredients of a traditional Asian family stew recipe dating back hundreds of years. But these ingredients have also become trending on skin care shelves in addition to the pantry shelves. Here are other unusual ingredients that have also been trending across the globe.

—Silk worm cocoons

            You probably wouldn't associate worms with beauty, but silkworm cocoons are another K-Beauty novelty. Silkworms create their cocoon to protect them as they metamorphose into a future butterfly. For skin care use, the cocoons are dried and cleaned. Before using, they should be immersed in hot water until they become a soft, soggy "sock" to put on the finger. This can then be used as a silky-soft way to exfoliate and get rid of flaky patches.

            Sericin is a protein found in the silk threads making up cocoons, which can be extracted as a powder and used in skin care oils or creams. Sericin is said to help improve the skin barrier by keeping skin hydrated and sealing in moisture.


            These amazing creatures are usually sought after by tide pool sight-seers, but now starfish are receiving a closer look for their skin care benefits in the latest "must-have" face cream. Since starfish can regenerate its own lost or injured limbs, can they hold the secret to skin regeneration as well? Starfish extract is loaded with collagen, calcium, and skin-loving vitamins, which are all skin care ingredients that help plump skin, smooth out wrinkles, and rejuvenate the complexion.

            As this ingredient trend spreads, it's not likely that the ocean's supply will be depleted. Scientists have indicated that the starfish used in beauty creams are bi-products of environmental groups that reduce the overgrowth of the starfish population in order to prevent the destruction of coral reefs and other essential fish habitats. 


            Not just food for pandas, bamboo has been used for centuries in Korea for helping heal skin. Not surprising, since bamboo regenerates itself incredibly fast, skyrocketing upward at an average rate of three to five feet a year, and some varieties actually grow over a foot a day. Used in skincare, bamboo is known as an excellent hydrator, drawing moisture to the skin to plump it up. And no worries about depleting the bamboo forests of the world--due to its rapid growth, it's one of the most sustainable ingredients in skin care you'll ever find.



            Stay on top of K-Beauty trends by pepping up your own skin care regimen, transforming your facial protocols, or just passing along the information to clients. In this way, you'll be at the forefront of the global skincare industry by continuing the spread of this amazing "K-phenomenon." You won't just find ways to benefit skin... in the process, you'll add a lot more fun, excitement, and surprises to your life. And who doesn't love a good surprise?



Founder and CEO of Le Mieux Cosmetics and PurErb Herbology-based Skincare & Aromatherapy, Janel Luu has over 35 years experience in the beauty industry as an educator, researcher, and formulator. She has taught over 37,000 skincare professionals and physicians on topics ranging from anti-aging cellular technology to centuries-old Meridian techniques.


LNE March 2018